What may be the biggest crowd in history ever to watch a yacht race basked in the sunshine of the Venice waterfront running almost up to St Mark’s Square to see what many thought was the America’s Cup in action but is the world series for potential America’s Cup competitors racing on what is usually one of the busiest bits of water in Europe.
Police and the city authorities estimated over 100,000 on a stretch of just over two kilometres which was shut down for over three hours to provide a narrow race track, though how many would have been there anyway on a sunny Saturday in May was not quoted.
Certainly, instead of all concentrating architectural glory they were looking on to a track as narrow as 140 metres, flanked on one side by spectators on foot and on the other by not just hundreds of spectator craft but a floating grandstand.
The locals were also given something to cheer as one of two Luna Rossa yachts, backed by the Prada fashion house, won the first of the two races, this one steered by Paul Campbell James, and the other, steered by Chris Draper, was beaten into second by 21 seconds by Terry Hutchinson, skippering Sweden’s Artemis, in the second race.
Adding to a great week for British hopes in Olympic sailing, as Ben Ainslie crowned winning his sixth world championship in the Finn singlehander by being the number one Olympic torch carrier in Cornwall fellow team members Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark won the women’s World 470 championship in Barcelona.
“It was really cool to cross the finish line and know we had done enough,” said Mills afterwards. “I don’t think it has really sunk in yet for me but Sas is super happy, she’s so excited.
“We knew we had the potential to win here, and it’s a huge thing to be world champion, but, at the same time, I can’t stop thinking about this summer and the Olympics, which is what this year is really about for us.
“It’s a fantastic result. Hannah and Saskia have made steady progress,” said Olympic manager Stephen Park. “Now everything will be focussed on delivering at the Games in Weymouth, but they should definitely take a moment to reflect on what they have achieved in becoming Britain’s first women’s 470 world champions.”
The Volvo round the world race fleet, back up to full strength with six boats, starts leg seven from Miami to Lisbon on Sunday with four of them all in contention ahead of Saturday’s inshore race.
The overall leader, Spain’s Telefónica retained the overall lea with 164 points while second-placed Groupama of France had 153, the second Spanish boat Camper had 149 and the winner of the last two legs, the American-flagged Puma, had 147. The remaining two legs are to Lorient, France, and Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, with inshore races in all three.